Posts Tagged ‘measuring’

Grasscloth Engineering and Logistics – Technical Details Post

August 21, 2022
Grasscloth is a natural material that cannot be matched from strip to strip, so all the seams will be visible . In addition, there is usually a slight but noticeable color difference between strips / panels (called shading or paneling ) . So it’s important to plot the layout of the strips to give the most visually pleasing overall look. Usually this means balancing the width of strips so they are all equal , at least on the same wall . We call this engineering .
This wall presented particular challenges , due to the widths of the elements. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide . You can use your straightedge and a sharp razor blade and trim it down to any width you want.
The width of both the large wall spaces to the right and left of the bank of windows was 34.” The width of each window was about 35.” The width of the two spaces in between the windows was 7.”
So you’d think I could trim my panels on either side of the windows, and then over the windows, to about 34″-36″ – give or take a few inches (or fractions thereof).
But that would leave me with two 7″ wide strips between these 35″ panels. Although the look would be uniform and mirror-image from the center outward, moving from right to left you’d have: 35,” 35″, 7,” 35,” 7,” 35,” 35,” … those 7″ breaks were just not going to look right.
One option was to determine the width of the wall (189″) and make each strip an equal width. This worked out to six strips, each at 31.5″ Not good, because this would mean a seam down either far side. And since those sides were 34″ wide, that would mean a 31.5″ wide strip and a strip 2.5″ wide. Not attractive at all, and it would use up an extra strip of wallpaper.
This six strips @ 31.5″ wide scenario might also land with a seam smack in the middle of those 7″ wide interludes in between the windows. Not attractive at all.
So I decided to make the two outer strips 35″ wide. That left 119″ of wall space above the windows to be covered with wallpaper. Do some math and you get four panels of 29.75″ wide. This gave a balanced and uniform look to the area over the windows, and also prevented seams from landing between the windows.
Moving right to left, I cut and hung the full length outer strip first. Then I cut and hung the strip over the window on the right. Then I measured to find the centerpoint of the window in the middle. Turns out it was a bit less than 29.75″ away. So I trimmed that next over-window strip accordingly.
Once that was in place, I measured from that center point above the middle window out to where my left full-height panel would fall, 35″ out from the wall. Took the resulting measurement and divided by 2. Lo and behold, each of the next two panels over the window was going to be a bit wider than 30.” No problem. No one (but a paperhanger or maybe an engineer) is going to notice a 1/4″ or even a full 1″ difference in widths between this strips over the windows.
Another thing to point out … it’s important that I took measurements before cutting these strips for this second left-hand section. Because, since grasscloth comes at 36″ (and walls can be wonky), if my strips had been narrower (say, 28″), that last full-height panel on the left might have ended up needing to be 37″ wide – and that wouldn’t work because it only comes 36″ wide – plus you need at least 1/8″ to wrap around the corner.
Luckily I had the flexibility to be able to trim the panels over the windows to any width needed, to accommodate all this.
If you’ve followed all this so far, let me also toss in that we also need to figure how to get paper in between those windows. More on that below.
In this scenario, I’m moving from right to left.
Area beneath the windows needs to be treated in the same way, and preferably with widths that match what’s going on above the windows. In addition, it’s tricky because after you move across 12′ of wall space, the strips above and below the windows are going to twist and torque out of shape, so that last full-length panel on the far left might not butt up perfectly with the last strip under the windows.
The grasscloth is black , and my wallpaper primer is white . It’s common for teeny gaps to appear at the seams . In this case, it’s likely that white wall would peek out from those gaps. So I like to stripe under where the seams will fall with dark (diluted) paint . This takes measuring , plotting , and also a heat gun to get the paint to dry before the wallpaper hits it, to avoid staining. You can do a Search here to read more about this technique .
Now let’s talk about getting wallpaper in between those windows.
As you can see in the photo, if I hang a 30″ wide strip, a whole lot of paper is going to be cut off and thrown away. Also, a whole lot of sticky, pasted paper is going to bump against that window molding and maybe even the window glass. A lot to clean up! And unwieldy, to boot.
My solution was to stop the wallpaper just a little below the tops of the windows. Then I would patch in a 7″ wide strip in between the windows. This is trickier than it sounds, because, if it were a paper wallpaper, I could simply cut along a design motif and overlay the 7″ wide piece. But grasscloth is thick and overlaps don’t look good. Also grass has no design elements , and the reeds of grass don’t necessarily fall perfectly horizontal , and even if you cut everything perfectly true to square , if the window molding is a teeny bit off-plumb , then your edges won’t butt up perfectly.
So that’s a good reason for striping the black paint under where the butt join will occur.
Same thing for the sections under the windows. I measured and positioned the strips so that the top edge (which I had trimmed to be perfectly horizontal) fell between the narrowest part of the windowsill molding, for less visibility.
I admit, instead of butting the two pieces, here I did overlap the 7″ wide strip about 1/4″ onto the piece under the window, right at that narrow junction. It’s only about 3″ wide, and I figured no one is going to be examining it that closely, anyway. This saved me about a half an hour of measuring, trimming, testing, repeat, repeat.
This is my second window interlude, and by this time I had realized that it’s hard to trim stiff grasscloth around intricate moldings precisely . So I used paint to fill in the edges around the window molding, just in case there might be any gaps between the grasscloth and the molding, so you would see black instead of the white molding paint. I did this with a small sponge; if I had used an artist’s brush it would have been a bit neater and tighter to the conforms of the molding. But sometimes you’ve gotta relax and realize that no one’s going to be scrutinizing the insides of moldings below shin-level.
Area over windows finished, with drapes back in place.
Turns out this particular grasscloth is so uniform in color (quite unusual, I will add), that you can’t really see the panels , nor their equal widths , anyway. I’m still glad I took the time to do all this math and trimming.
Area below the windows, done. That last seam on the left bears some explanation, too. Moving across the top of the windows, I measured that that last strip – the full-length strip – would need to be exactly 35″ wide. It butted up nicely to the last strip above the windows.
But, due to twisting , shifting , expansion , unlevel and unplumb walls and ceilings , and other factors, there is a really good chance that that last 35″ wide strip would not butt up perfectly with the last 30″ wide strip under the window . So I planned to splice these last two strips together.
Yeah, the drapes are hanging there, I coulda overlapped the two strips about 1/2″ and the drapes would have covered it. With a thin wallpaper, I probably would have done this. But grasscloth is thick, and an overlap would be visible , and also the adhesive / paste can’t be trusted to adhere as well to grass as it would to paper .
So I plotted for a splice. Instead of trimming my last strip under the window to 30″ (read above), I trimmed it to 32″ wide. That way, when I hung the last full-length strip to the left, which was 35″ wide, it overlapped the piece under the window by a few inches. Then I did a double cut and spliced the two pieces. See below for details about that technique.
Grasscloth is 36″ wide, and this wall area is wider than that. So two strips were needed. This means you’re going to have a seam, and since grasscloth seams are always visible, it looks best to plot to have the seam fall down the center. It uses more wallpaper to do this, but it looks much better than having, for example, a 36″ wide strip next to an 8″ wide strip.
As mentioned above, in case you get thin gaps at the seams, a dark stripe of diluted craft paint under where the seam will fall, will prevent white wall from showing through.
Rounded / bull-nosed edges and corners have been popular in new construction for at least 10 years. I wish they’d go away. They’re very difficult to trim around, and hard for the paper to conform to and adhere to.
It’s very hard to trim around that rounded edge, because the paper is hanging over and blocking your view, because grasscloth is thick and stiff and your fingers can’t feel through it, and because the edges aren’t necessarily true and plumb so a laser level or other level won’t help you much.
I use this little gadget as a trim guide. It’s actually a small section of the same corner bead material that drywallers use when they assemble these walls. Cut to about 1″ long and notched in different places where you might trim along the edge of the wall.
It’s intended that you place your trimming knife in one of the notches and slide the gizmo along the edge and make your cut. I find that awkward and also inaccurate. So I prefer to use the notches as a guide and mark where I plan to trim with a pencil. Since this wallpaper is black, I used this marking pencil from my home sewing kit instead. Chalk might work, but I was afraid it might now wipe off completely.
The pink pencil line was barely visible, but it was enough for me to use a scissors to trim along the grasscloth. I like this better than using a razor blade as I can see better, and also less chance of scoring into the primer or wall. Which raises its own set of issues – do a search here to find previous posts.
Inside view of the trim guide.
Finished arch. Note the four panels of equal width above the arch. And two flanking full-height panels also the same widths.
I was lucky that there was no pattern to match, so I was able to butt my two flanking strips right up to the edge of the bull-nosed corner. No trimming needed! Then I measured the remaining width between these two strips (the area over the arch), divided by four, and cut four strips of equal widths.
I hung the two on the left, and then one on the far right. This left one strip still to be positioned to the right of center. So the pieces are going to meet over the arch, rather than the last strip falling in a corner.
Same as the last strip under the window (discussed above), it’s really difficult to get your last piece to fit in here perfectly. I’ve done it, but it takes a lot of measuring, trimming, testing, retrimming, and often starting all over again.
So I did a double-cut / splice.
A double cut involves cutting each strip an inch or so wider than it should be, and overlapping the two. Then you take a straight edge and sharp razor blade and cut through both layers. This handy tool is a wonderful non-slip guide for this process. It was invented by an installer colleague in the Wallcovering Installers Association ( WIA ) and she has them fabricated in various lengths (along with other cool tools ) and sells them on-line. Contact me if you’re interested.
Anyway, it takes a lot of strength to cut through two layers of grasscloth, so somewhat difficult for lil’ ol’ me.
You also want to be sure to not cut / score into the wall, because the tension of drying wallpaper can tug at the wall and cause it to actually come apart, leaving an open seam that’s difficult to repair.
So you’ve got to put some padding under the wall where the cut will take place. I use special strips of polystyrene (hard but flexible plastic) to pad the wall. Also invented by a colleague in the WIA , who also sells other cool tools and supplies. Contact me if you’re interested.
This black grasscloth was printed on a white substrate. If the seams aren’t absolutely tight, there can be worries about the backing showing through to the front. So sometimes we’ll take a piece of chalk or pastel (never oil pastel or permanent markers because they bleed and stain ) and run it along the edge of the paper – from the back, and taking care to not get chalk on the surface.
I do this frequently with dark papers ( do a search here to see previous posts ) but opted not to do it with this grasscloth. It wasn’t necessary, and might have stained the porous reeds of the grass. It was beneficial, though, to have striped dark paint on the wall under the seams, as mentioned above.
Ugh. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide, and this section of wall is 38″ wide. It’s not visually pleasing, nor is it easy from an installation point of view, to have a 36″ wide strip next to a 2″ wide strip. Or to use scraps and put a 25″ wide strip next to a 13″ wide strip.
So best to plan two strips of equal widths. Two strips, each 19″ wide, with the seam down the middle.
Actually, the strip on the left was 19″ wide, but I trimmed the strip on the right to 21″, because I like the wallpaper to extend 2″ over the top of the door molding. This provides a more stable surface in case of shifting foundation or walls, and less likelihood (knock on wood) of the seam opening up should the house / drywall experience shifting.
Note that design “rules” caution against seams down the middle of spaces. But it would have been more visually distracting (and used up more paper) to have made three strips of each 12.75″ wide. And would have looked even dumber to have used scraps left from other walls and put together two strips of disparate widths.
So the homeowner and I discussed during our initial consultation , and she was happy with the center seam. Once it was all finished, this particular grasscloth was so even in tone that you barely see the seams, anyway. Win-win!
This did use up additional paper, though, as noted in a previous photo above.

My Work Table Set Up

April 28, 2022
It’s the end of the day and I’m packing up. Items are sitting on the table that I normally would not allow. I’ve already pulled up the dropcloths I had along the walls. But you get the idea of my work area set-up , and the tools I use.
The table is for measuring, trimming, and pasting. My other, smaller, hand tools (not shown) are used for the actual wallpaper installation process. My toolbox is in the rear right.

Bringing Back The Bird

August 6, 2020


Re my previous post, where I explain why to add 2″ to EACH side of EACH dimension (height and width) of the wall when measuring for a mural (for a total of 4″ to both height and width),,, thus when the mural is installed, there will be 2″ or more of excess paper trimmed off and discarded from each side.

Usually, the manufacturer leaves a good bit of space around all sides that has no important pattern or motifs, so you are not losing anything special when this excess paper is trimmed off.

But this mural had a part of a bird flying in from the left edge. And he was going to be completely cut off and thrown into the trash.

I thought it would look better if the mural included this arriving feathered friend.

So I took the strip of wallpaper that had been trimmed off from the left side of the mural, and cut around his figure, pasted the back side, and appliquéd him to the upper left edge of the mural – right where the artists planned to have him be.

Gorgeous Chinoiserie Mural in West Houston “Cocktail Room”

August 5, 2020


Here is a much more economical take on the hand-painted silk Chinoiserie or Oriental murals crafted in China that can cost $1000-$2000 per panel (this accent wall required 10 panels).

This digitally-printed mural is made in Sweden on easy-to-install Non-Woven material, and was sized to fit the wall with no major measuring gymnastics required. No color differences between panels, as with real silk products. Close-up photos show the detail work that mimics silk material and hand-painted fowl and foliage…. Just as nice as the $$$ cousin.

But this entire mural cost only about $600. (plus labor to install)

The finished wall, seen from a distance through the entry and dining room is jaw-dropping.

The family intends to use this as a “cocktail room,” with svelte custom-made tables and sink-into lounging chairs. I sure hope they send me a picture of the finished room!

I skim-floated the wall to smooth it, and the top photo shows my fans working to dry the smoothing compound.

Another photo shows the strips cut from the bolt, collated, and rolled backwards to both reduce “memory” (the inclination of the material to stay curled up) and to prevent the surface from bopping into the paste on the wall.

To hang this wallpaper, I use the paste-the-wall method.

An important thing to note is that, when measuring to order a mural, measure your wall’s height and width accurately, and then ADD TWO INCHES TO EACH SIDE. In other words, add 4″ to the height and 4″ to the width. This will allow for trimming at floor and ceiling and either side, and will help accommodate crooked or unlevel / unplumb walls and ceilings.

The homeowner wanted the serene feel of this muted colorway, but this mural is available in other colors, too. The home is in the Energy Corridor area of West Houston. The manufacturer is Rebel Walls. I have hung their paper a good number of times, and like it a lot.

Cole & Son “Woods” in Pearland Laundry Room

February 6, 2020

North corner walls, originally textured.

North corner walls, smoothed.

North corner walls, papered.

South corner walls, smoothed.

South corner walls, papered.

Close up of paper.

This very popular wallpaper pattern is by Cole & Son, and is called “Woods.” I have hung it in the black-on-white many times (do a Search here – upper right), but this is the first time to do it in this softer colorway. The décor in this home is all soft and muted greys and taupes, with a lot of natural materials (wood, stone) tossed in, so this pattern and color are a perfect compliment.

The wallpaper material is called non-woven, which has a high fiberglass content. This means it doesn’t expand when wet with paste, so there is no booking time – meaning you can hang each strip as soon as it is pasted. In fact, you can paste the wall and dry-hang the strips, if you choose. Another advantage of non-wovens is that they are dimensionally-stable, and do not expand when wet with paste, like paper wallpapers do. Very handy when measuring and laying out the room.

A disadvantage of non-wovens is that they are prone to staining and blushing. This is where the paper looks like it is wet, but it never dries and disappears. Certain pastes (880, 234) are known to cause staining on these materials, as well as too much pressure while installing, or wetting the paper with water.

This laundry room is in a newish home in Pearland, a suburb in south Houston.

Balancing Grasscloth Panels

January 18, 2020


Because grasscloth does not have a pattern that can be matched, the seams are always visible. And, due to the characteristics of natural materials, the strips will have color variations within themselves. This means that you will distinctly see each individual panel on the wall.

Because each panel is noticeable, walls usually look better if each panel is the same width. In other words, on a wall 14′ wide, it looks better to have five strips that are each 33.5″ wide, rather than four strips that are 3′ wide and one that is 2.’

In addition, grasscloth invariably comes with edges that have been abraded during shipping. On top of that, it’s common to have color issues at the edges – either a light band, or a dark band, or irregular bands of shading along the edges.

For that reason, many paperhangers trim the edges off both sides of each strip of grasscloth. This allows the installer to trim the width to fit the wall’s dimensions, it gets rid of most of the damage caused by shipping and handling, and it reduces the shading that the manufacturer’s dye process may have left along the edges.

If you study the photo closely, you will see that all these panels are the same width.

And, while some jagged color variations do appear along some of the edges, it is not pronounced, as the darkest areas have been trimmed off.

There is still a color difference between the three strips on the right and the four strips on the left – but that is just the nature of grasscloth and its manufacturing process

As you can imagine, all this measuring and plotting and trimming takes extra time. If you’re like me and like math and geometry and logistics, hanging grasscloth can be a whole lot of fun!

Measuring for a Mural – Add 2″ Extra to EACH Side

August 3, 2019


One common mistake that homeowners make when ordering custom-sized murals is that they will meticulously measure their wall to the 1/2 inch, and order the mural that size.

What they are supposed to do is to add 2″ of “bleed” to each side – a total of 4″ to each dimension.

This extra paper allows for trimming at the ceiling and baseboard (see photo), and it allows some wiggle room to accommodate crooked or unplumb walls and unlevel floors and ceilings.

Flaw of the Day – Ink Stain

July 18, 2018


Here’s a band of what I suppose is ink, running down the back of this bolt of wallpaper. It is visible from the front. This ruined at least half the bolt, and cut me out of one full strip of paper.

This meant I had no extra paper for making perfect pattern matches in the corners, or to cover a possible mishap. So I was extra careful in measuring and cutting, and did manage to get the room done.

Ran Short of Paper – Notes to Move Ahead

July 5, 2018


As I mentioned in a previous post, we ran short of paper on this job, and had to have more custom-made. It is very expensive paper, and the homeowner wanted to buy as much as needed, but not have excessive waste. I did a lot of measuring and calculating to see how much wall I could cover with what we had left (including pieces that could be split and / or spliced), and how much would be needed to be ordered.

Since a month would go be before the new paper could be printed, and I would be working on many other jobs, it was also going to be difficult to remember what I had plotted to use where.

So I wrote careful notes on the back of the remaining paper. That’s what you see in the photo. It sure was a big help when I went back to finish the room today. I did roll everything out and measure and plot again, before cutting anything, just to be sure.

We ended up getting that final wall done, with about 24″ of paper to spare. 🙂

Two Bolts, Two Runs, Four Walls – Engineering to the Rescue

June 21, 2018


Re my previous post … The area to be papered was small, but the whole job was complicated because the grasscloth arrived in two different runs. Run refers to paper that was all dyed / printed at the same time, with the same batch of ink. Different runs will be slightly different colors. The second photo exaggerates that color difference a bit, but still, it was pretty noticeable. That’s why you need to be sure that all your wallpaper is from the same run.

Somehow, Quality Control fell through on several levels, and I ended up with four walls to cover, a scant two bolts of paper, and two different color shades.

If two strips of wallpaper from two different runs are places side-by-side, you will see a big difference in color, which is what we call paneling (do a Search here for more pics and info). But your eye won’t notice a slight color difference if the two runs are kept on separate walls.

So my challenge today was to figure out how many strips I needed of what lengths, to cover which walls, without mixing either of the runs on the same wall, all the while bearing in mind the length of each bolt of paper and how many strips I could get out of each.

It took a bit of measuring, plotting, pre-planning, and engineering – which, to be honest, I actually enjoy – a lot. 🙂 In the end, I was able to cover all four walls without either of the two runs touching one another on the same wall. Once the room was done, you would never have known the paper had come in two different shades. The overall look was very homogeneous.